Is your house overflowing with toys? More isn’t always better, and can even have adverse results. Here are the downsides of having too many toys.
Birthday parties and play dates give me a glimpse into how much toys other kids can have compared to my own. The holidays make me wonder whether I give them enough. Do they need more toys to stimulate creativity and keep them occupied?
A BBC article “Are children given too many toys?” says they’re not. According to psychologist Oliver James, children don’t need many toys. He says:
Most children need a transition object—their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially generated want.
The downsides of having too many toys
If kids don’t need all these toys, could there then be a downside to having too many?
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!
Too many toys prevents kids from playing with everyday objects
Kids develop their creative potential by playing with ordinary household items. No toys, just pots and kitchen spoons turned into a drum set. Balls of yarn tossed like a ball, or an empty water bottle to collect dried leaves and flowers outside. With too many toys, kids aren’t as able to explore non-toy materials.
Many toys also have pre-determined characteristics and storylines. The Elmo doll comes with its personality long before your child can decide for herself.
Less toys leads to more cooperation among siblings
Many parents mistakenly assume that providing their kids with many toys prevents fighting. They might think giving each of their daughters their own kitchen sets will keep the peace.
But it turns out scarcity leads to better cooperation. With limited resources, kids have to share and create their own system of turn-taking. But with too many toys, they miss out on learning to cooperate. Instead, they “mark their territory,” refusing to part or share with their toys.
Of course, it’s important for kids to have their own special toys that’s theirs. My older son has a duck lovey that we don’t encourage the twins to play with. But the rest of the toys is up for grabs. We encourage turn-taking rather than a “That’s yours, and this is his” mentality.
Less toys means longer attention spans
I needed to buy myself some time in the kitchen, so I placed several toys in front of my eight-month-old. “That should keep him occupied,” I thought, hoping he doesn’t get bored.
But the more toys I offered, the less time he had to explore just one toy. I assumed he’d be bored with only one toy—instead, he couldn’t focus on just one.
These days, I scatter a few toys around but don’t hand them several toys all at once. With a few toys, they’re not as likely to jump from one toy to the next. They can examine what they’re holding, observe their surroundings, or play with their hands.
Less toys means taking better care of them
When kids know their toys are limited, they invest the time and care into the ones they have. They won’t waste art supplies knowing how few they have left, or mishandle a truck if it’s the only one in the house. Less toys are more precious, which brings me to…
Too many toys takes away the “specialness” of an item
I love how my four-year-old has a few special stuffed animals. Any more than that can diminish the special bond he has with them. Given too many stuffed animals, he wouldn’t develop deep attachments with his special toys.
Too many toys can spoil kids
Giving too many toys isn’t the only way to spoil kids, but it can lead to entitlement. We create the norm in our kids’ lives and set the standards for what they should expect. So if we present them with 10 gifts for the holidays, it’s natural they’re upset if they receive five the next.
Giving toys all the time will also prevent kids from understanding the concept of “enough.” Without limits, kids will want more, never satisfied with what they already have. It’s a cycle, where what they have can’t be good enough if they’re always pursuing more.
Less toys means finding joy in non-materials or experiences
Rewarding kids’ good deeds with toys tells them that satisfaction is in material items. Rewards don’t have to involve a trip to the toy store. A simple praise, a hug, or spending time with each other would make many kids happy.
By not emphasizing toys as the ultimate reward, kids find value in other ways. They can play with their current toys or other household items. They can play games and hang out with loved ones.
Too many toys can lead to sensory overload
To the eyes of an infant, everything is new. A trip to the mall—a place adults breeze through—is a stream of new things to process. The same is true with too many toys. With a living room chock-full of toys, babies might tire with so much information to absorb.
Older kids can feel sensory overload as well. Rather than having downtime after a long day, they’re wound up from too many choices. They can’t focus on just one toy or activity.
“Too much” or “too little” is relative. What seems like enough for me is over-the-top for some. Just as our toys seems like a small collection compared to other kids.
Still, my husband and I try to keep toys to a minimum. We give durable, timeless toys, and we teach our son the value of repairing as much as possible.
We also don’t give extravagant gifts. I want our kids to have fun with a simple set of blocks, or a toy guitar. Some of my favorite gifts growing up were the little things—a rubber stamp and ink pad from my sister, a diary.
Above all, we don’t place too much focus on gifts and toys. They’re tools to having fun, learning, and spending time with others. Not a mountain of stuff long forgotten about.
Read more posts on how kids learn:
- How to React when Your Child Makes a Mistake
- How to Raise a Smart Child
- Teaching Resilience and Perseverance: How to Raise Kids with Grit
- Can Praise Be Harmful and Impede Your Child’s Potential?
- Why Technology Is Unnecessary for Your Kids (Even In These Modern Times)
Is there a downside to too many toys? What would you constitute as “too much” or “too little”?